Québec solidaire members pick byelection candidate, ignore calls to nominate a woman

Olivier Bolduc is applauded by Québec solidaire co-leaders Manon Massé and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois after he wins the party's nomination the next byelection in the riding of Jean-Talon at the Université Laval in Quebec City August 6, 2023. Francis Vachon/The Canadian Press

Members of the left-wing party Québec solidaire have chosen Olivier Bolduc to run in an upcoming provincial byelection, rebuffing suggestions from party leadership that a woman should be nominated.

The party announced at a nomination meeting late Sunday that Bolduc, a court stenographer, would run in the Quebec City riding of Jean-Talon, which was left vacant by the departure of Coalition Avenir Québec legislature member Joëlle Boutin last month.

The choice came after The Canadian Press revealed the existence of an internal party communication that “strongly” suggested party members should choose a woman to run in the riding.

The party’s interim president had also thrown his support behind Bolduc’s rival, accounting professor Christine Gilbert.

While Gilbert positioned herself as a unifying candidate with strong financial knowledge, Bolduc stressed the experience he’s gained by running in four previous campaigns, including a second-place finish to Boutin in last year’s general election.

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Québec solidaire co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois acknowledged Sunday that the choice of candidate might disappoint some party members, but he described Bolduc as a fighter who knows the riding well.

“They want a guy who is tireless, who cares about Jean-Talon, who is there for the right reasons,” he said of the voters.

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On Sunday, Bolduc reminded voters that it took popular party member Manon Massé five tries to get elected. “A trust has been established between the citizens and me …. I will not disappoint you,” he promised.

Several former candidates and party members had previously indicated to The Canadian Press that they believed the party should nominate a woman, and some even suggested that Bolduc step aside.

Québec solidaire holds 12 seats in the legislature, with eight being held by men and four by women. The lack of a gender-balanced caucus has been a source of discussion in recent months, including in February when members voted in favour of a proposition asking for measures to be put in place to ensure more female candidates run in the next election.

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In an interview on Sunday, Gilbert said it was important to have more women, “especially for a feminist party,” adding, “I also have skills that will be extremely useful to Québec solidaire.”

While Bolduc has agreed there need to be more women in politics, he argued choosing Gilbert “would not solve the problems regarding the status of women in Quebec all at once.”

“We have to be careful not to fetishize these things,” he said in an interview.

A byelection date has not been set, but Nadeau-Dubois said the party’s campaign would begin immediately. He predicted a tight race in the riding between Québec solidaire, the Parti Québécois and the governing Coalition Avenir Québec. Quebec election rules say a byelection must be called within six months of the vacancy.

Boutin captured the former Liberal stronghold in a 2019 byelection and held it in 2022 before announcing last month that she was quitting to take a job in the private sector.

While the CAQ has a firm hold on power, winning 90 of the province’s 125 seats in 2022, it is facing a challenge in from the newly resurgent Parti Québécois, which has been climbing the polls in the Quebec City region.

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